US cuts aid as UNRWA staff accused of Oct. 7 involvement
The International Court of Justice isn’t the only UN body in the news regarding Gaza today.
The White House on Friday suspended funding for the UN Refugee Works Administration, aka UNRWA, due to allegations that an unspecified number of the agency’s employees had participated in the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel.
UNRWA is the main UN agency supporting the roughly 6 million Palestinian refugees who live in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Here’s a map of where they live.) It provides humanitarian aid and runs schools, medical facilities, and other social services.
The agency itself issued a statement pledging to terminate the staff members allegedly involved and to open an investigation.
The US is the largest single supporter of UNRWA, contributing $343 million in 2022, the last year for which there are full figures. That’s about a third of the agency’s annual budget. More than 40% comes from EU member states, and Brussels said Friday it was “extremely concerned” about the allegations.
Israel has for years alleged that UNRWA has been coopted by the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip. In December, reports emerged of a classified Israeli Foreign Ministry plan to push UNRWA out of the Gaza Strip entirely.
The funding cut couldn’t come at a worse time. Israel's bombardment and invasion of Gaza in response to the October 7th attacks have already left more than 80% of the enclave's population displaced, and with entries of humanitarian and other aid severely restricted, the UN has warned that Gaza's people could face famine and epidemic outbreaks of disease.